The Universe is not immortal. Eventually, it will either expand to the point of heat death, or it'll collapse. Either of these will likely take a very, very, very long time to happen, but a group of scientists from the University of Southern Denmark now believe that a collapse is more likely, and that we might have to knock off one of those "very"s from how long we've got. Yes, we’re all doomed.
"Phase transition" is what scientists call the process of the Universe imploding. It could happen when the field that the Higgs particle is a manifestation of changes value, making every particle in the Universe increase in mass millions of billions of times. The weight from those particles will shove everything everywhere into a single point called a singularity, and everything we know will disappear. In other words, phase transition is the opposite of the Big Bang that created our Universe, and is, in fact, based on what we know about the Big Bang.
Many physicists have calculated and theorized how this phase transition will happen, along with when. The Denmark team, however, believe their calculations and theory are the most precise to date. And their theory is frightening: they state that not only will the Universe collapse, but it’s now more likely to happen sooner. In fact, it could already be happening, starting on the outer fringes of the Universe, from where it will spread. Or it could start right here, in the next five minutes.
Before you grab your towel and stick your thumb up to the sky hoping to hitch a ride with friendly aliens, not all hope is lost. These scientists also stated that their new findings could mean that phase transition might not happen at all. The concept depends on what we know about the Higgs particle and if there are any other particles out there that we haven’t discovered yet. It’s a case of considering the factors of what we don’t know, more than what we currently know. In other words, don’t panic. But it certainly couldn’t hurt to keep that towel handy.